Mentors are so important. I don’t know where I would be without the fabulous people in my life who cared enough to teach me something and share their passion and knowledge with me. All I can say is thank you!
A few years ago I was lucky enough to meet five mentors all at once! I had the honour of touring with the Oakland based quintet, Linda Tillery and The Cultural Heritage Choir, the members at the time were Rhonda Benin, Elouise Burrell, Melanie DeMore, Simon Monserrat and Linda Tillery, of course. I was young, eager and ready to take on the task of learning about 60 tunes (with little to no rehearsal) and for the first while I just had to go with the flow and learn while performing. It was scary and it kicked my butt, in a good way. Over that summer we shared the stage with some exceptional performers like Bettye Levette, The Campbell Brothers, The Blind Boys of Alabama and Bob Brozman. What I loved most about touring with Linda and the CHC was the down time: late nights in hotel rooms, long van rides and kitchen table talks. Those moments were like school for me. All I had to do was shut up and listen and take it all in. I learned so many invaluable lessons that I would have never learned in music school. Every night they sat me down and gave me the what’s what, fed me the greasiest of the greasiest tunes and taught me the ins and outs of soul music. They opened my ears and their experiences and passion helped me understand and appreciate the nuances of soul music that others often ignore and gloss over. It was a humbling, inspiring and expansive time and a great blessing. It was also a challenge and a call to uphold the integrity of soul music, to always respect and acknowledge the artists who create it and to continue to learn as much as I can about it. I am forever grateful for their patience and wisdom. Spending that summer with them has changed me for the better.
Every evening I walked away with a long list of people to check out, research and learn from, Rance Allen was at the top of that list and is one of my favourite musicians.